Responses to Web Stream Questions from Visual Support Strategies Workshop


Picturing Success: Visual Support Strategies for Individuals with ASD

Brenda Fossett, PhD, BCBA-D


Question:

A child tends to stim with visual supports, laminated pictures by liking to bend them, seems to be sensory so it has been difficult to use visual supports/laminated pictures or picture exchange, any ideas how to overcome this?

Answer:

Without assessing the situation myself, it’s difficult to determine exactly why this child is bending pictures. In this situation, I would want to determine if the type of symbol is appropriate for this particular child. Some children will engage in what appears to be “non-functional” use of symbols, visual supports (e.g., bending, mouthing, flapping, etc.) because they do not understand that these symbols/visuals represent specific information. If the issue were related to the child not understanding the type of symbol, I would recommend using a different type of representation. I would also want to assess the function of the behavior. The behavior may be “sensory” in nature, but there are other potential reasons why the child is engaging in this behavior. Understanding why the behavior is occurring would help in determining appropriate options. You can also mount representations on thicker, less bendable materials (such as foam board) and “laminate” with clear packing tape to make it more difficult for the child to bend pictures. This would be a short term solution until you are able to assess the behavior.


Question

What are your thoughts on using Lesson Pix to use for visuals?

Answer

This is also a good resource, however the images in Lesson Pix are quite different from Picture Communication Symbols (from Boardmaker) or Symbolstix symbols. These two types of symbols are more widely used in school settings and in communication apps. For some individuals, moving between different “brands” of symbols is not problematic; for others, it can be more difficult. In the end, if an individual is able to understand the symbols in Lesson Pix, there is no reason not to use them. It is important, however, to consider other contexts where the individual may be exposed to symbols in the future and whether or not he/she will be able to meet the demands of learning different symbol sets.


Question

What do you think of Comic Life for visual supports?

Answer

Using comic strip based supports can be useful for some students. Carol Gray (developer of Social StoriesTM) also developed Comic Strip ConversationsTM as a strategy to support individuals in understanding social situations/problematic situations via comic stripping. Like with any kind of visual support, it’s important to determine what your purpose is and then select a type of support that will serve the purpose and be appropriate for a given student.


Question

Is it best to ask the student to make the choice when we do the schedule or when it is time for this specific activity?

Answer

It depends on the student’s needs. If I am working with a student who requires a great deal of motivation to complete more challenging or less preferred activities, I will typically have that student make a choice of preferred activity (to follow the less preferred activity) when we set up the schedule. That way, the student has selected a highly preferred, motivating activity and knows what he is working for. If I am working with a student who finds waiting for highly preferred activities difficult, I might use a ‘choice’ symbol in the schedule to indicate when he/she will be able to make a choice. I generally provide students with as much information as possible (i.e., ask them to make choices when setting up the schedule), unless there’s a reason not to.


Question

How to deal with the student when we are late on the schedule in case of schedule with time pieces like this? Doesn’t it give us bad behavior or crisis?

Answer

This depends on the student and the situation. If I am using time pieces, it is usually because the student has difficulty stopping current activities and moving to the next activity – using time pieces can help individuals make those transitions at the correct time (because the schedule says it’s time). If I am working with a student who would have difficulty with ‘running late’ I would not implement time pieces until I taught the student how to wait and/or deal with minor delays in the schedule. We all live by a timed schedule at least some of the time (e.g., we need to show up at work/school at a particular time, we need to arrive at appointments at a particular time, etc.). This is an important skill to teach our students. As well, we all have to deal with unexpected changes to the schedule, including delays. This is also an important skill to teach our students. If this is likely to be a problem for a particular student, it’s important to design an instructional plan to teach the skill (e.g., waiting/accepting delays in a schedule).


Question

What do you suggest for a child without much support at home? I want to create a routine for homework. Currently, it stays in backpack and doesn’t get done.

Answer

This question suggests to me that the family does not have sufficient support to assist their child with homework completion. I would not send homework home without collaboratively developing a plan with the family that works for the family. Many of the families that I support have many additional demands and stressors. If, as a team (including the parents), it was determined that homework was not only a useful activity for the child but a do-able activity for the family (with appropriate supports), then I would work with the family to develop a plan to make homework do-able. For example, I might start by sending home an activity that the child can easily do independently. I might develop some sort of cue for the family to let them know if a homework activity has been sent home. I might help the family put together a ‘homework kit’ of necessary materials that stays in a specific area of the home, readily available. I would begin by sending one item home per week and gradually increasing the number of days of homework over time. Any and all plans and interventions needs to be developed in collaboration with the family. If the family conveys that they lack the necessary home-based resources and support to do homework with their child and/or if they convey that, for any reason, they are unable to support their child with homework, I would not send homework home. Instead, I would work with the family to determine what other kinds of supports might be useful at home to make home-life easier. If home-life is easier, we might be able to return to the topic of homework.


Question

Would the communication boards work for highly verbal students? 

Answer

Some individuals with good vocal/verbal skills also do well with communication supports (e.g., communication board/book, letter board, speech generating app), particularly in situations they find stressful. Whether or not this would be appropriate for a specific student is something best determined in collaboration with the student’s SLP and/or behavior consultant/analyst.


Question

With modeling with AAC, keeping in mind that touch chat only allows one device, would you recommend?   Do I type the question and use the device as my voice?  and then hand the device to my son?  buy a second touch chat?

Answer

Most AAC apps allow for use on multiple devices, so long as the same iTunes account is used on each device. It appears that TouchChat does allow for this – there is mention of sharing page sets across devices, which suggests that multiple devices are allowed.

If you are not able to have an AAC app on multiple devices, then you can use the individual’s device for modeling. Although not as ideal as you and the user each having a device with the same app, it is better than not modeling at all. If TouchChat really doesn’t allow for installation on multiple devices (using the same iTunes account), I would contact SilverKite directly to advocate for this – it’s something that most, if not all, other AAC apps allow.


Question

My question is about choosing between high tech vs low tech AAC. I have seen the ipad (even if locked on the AAC app) become something the child gets really focused in the screen (e.g. push one button repeatedly, rub spit on the screen, other visual stimulation). Should a person start with low tech, and then move to high tech if it seems appropriate or just go with high tech to begin with? I just don’t want to start with PECS, then move onto a device/ipad because the child seems capable and have to start all over with a different type of communication system.

Answer

The answer to this question will depend on a number of individualized factors. For some individuals, it may make more sense to provide initial AAC instruction using a low-tech system and then, when appropriate, move to a tech-based system. This is a decision that should be made in consultation with the individual’s SLP and/or behavior consultant/analyst (ideally professionals with experience in the use of a variety of AAC systems). You want to ensure that you are establishing an accessible, functional communication system that meets the needs of the learner. What that system may be will depend on several factors that are best assessed by professionals working with the individual.


Question

I’ve got a problem with video modeling : how is it possible to explain the student to stop watching video and follow school day? cause if he sees a video (computer, tablet…) i risk a big behavior or tantrum to do something else…

Answer

If video modeling is a poor fit for a given student, don’t use it – use a different strategy. If video modeling really is the best strategy, but there are issues with the student wanting to watch the video multiple times, etc. you can use a ‘video ticket’ system whereby the student is allowed ‘x’ number of views per day. When the tickets are gone, there are no more opportunities to watch. This is something best set up in consultation with a behavior consultant/analyst, as one would need to gather some data regarding the current behavior before designing an appropriate system to reduce the problem behavior.


Question

Which sites/apps do you recommend for video modeling?

Answer

I don’t recommend using pre-made, commercially available video models. Often they are not sufficiently specific or portray a situation in a way that is different from that experienced by the student. It is best to construct your own video models for target behaviors and situations. This is best done in consultation with a behavior consultant/analyst with knowledge of the video modeling literature as there are some useful guidelines for making videos in a way that not only increases desired behaviors but increases the likelihood of generalization and decreases the likelihood of students doing nothing more than following the video script verbatim.


Question

Do we really need an app to do video modeling?

Answer

No – you can simply store videos on your device. Using an app such as VideoTote or Pictello can help with organizing your video models and making them easier to access.


Question

Is there a workshop based on visual supports for academic activities?

Answer

I welcome requests for workshops – if you would like to set up a workshop on this topic, feel free to contact me (brendafossett@capilanou.ca).